Monday, January 7, 2013

Soft Pastel Pear

This month Stillman & Birn are releasing their much anticipated "Zeta" Series Sketchbook. I was thrilled when they asked if I would like to sample the new paper prior to release, and over the past few months I've been putting this gorgeous paper to the test. The new "Zeta" paper is exquisite, it's a heavyweight multi-media paper that has a 180 lb (270 gsm), natural white, smooth surface, much like hot press watercolor paper (my favorite).

I usually work in watercolor and acrylic mediums in my sketchbooks, and I absolutely prefer smooth surface papers, but for this page I thought I'd try water soluble soft pastel.  Pastel traditionally requires a toothy surface that holds the pigment, but when applied to a smooth surface often the colors are far more vibrant.  (Water soluble soft pastel is by far one of the most challenging mediums in which to work.)

I like to think of myself as a closet pastel artist.  I love both soft pastel and oil pastel, but you'll rarely see my work using them because to be honest, I don't think I'm very good at it.  It takes real skill to control pastel and I have A LOT to learn. It's one of those mediums I LOVE, but have yet to master.

So to challenge both myself, and the "Zeta" paper, I decided to play around with water soluble soft-pastel.  Not having much in my art box in this area, I bit the bullet and purchased a small packet of Sennelier Extra Soft Pastels.  I've been searching for the perfect soft pastel, and decided to give the Sennelier a try. Despite them being mostly out of my price range, the thing that sold me was that these little sticks of joy are water soluble.  They are high-quality soft pastels, and as I quickly discovered, worth every penny.

Oh my, I'm in love!! I picked up the 20 assorted half-pastel set from my local art shop and am over the moon with them. The colors are vibrant, the pastel melts beautifully in water and gives a wonderful coverage that can be blended or manipulated into texture.  I am now addicted to them and am saving up for the complete set of 525 full-stick pastels (it may take me a while).

As you can see, the paper held onto the pastel really well, despite the smooth surface.  I had no trouble blending and was able to use water to manipulate the pigment and create texture without any buckling, tearing, or bleed through.  But once again, the best part of this paper is how vibrant the colors remain on its surface.

I did fix the pastel with a light workable fixative once it was complete, but I would do this with any pastel work on any paper surface.  The new "Zeta" Series sketchbook from Stillman & Birn is due for release this month.  You will be able to get it at all good art-supply stores and online.  If you'd like to read my other "Zeta" reviews, click here and here.

Thanks for checking in. xx